An exposition of Ecclesiastes 1:1-11. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, July 11, 2010.
Power is an illusion. Fame is fleeting. Life is but a vapor. We spend our days fighting and clawing our away to the top. We struggle and strain in the hopes that we will achieve some success, that we will be remembered for some great thing. All the while knowing that the vast majority of us will live and die in obscurity. Few will take note that we traveled this way. Oh, and those who do achieve notoriety – they too will one day be forgotten. Doris Kearns Goodwin, the presidential biographer, gives these haunting words about the end of Lyndon Baynes Johnson:
A month before he died, he spoke to me with immense sadness in his voice. He said he was watching the American people absorbed in a new president, forgetting him, forgetting even the great civil rights laws that he had passed. He was beginning to think his quest for immortality had been in vain, that perhaps he would have been better off focusing his time and attention on his wife and his children, so then he could have had a different sort of immortality through his children and their children in turn. He could have depended on them in a way he couldn’t depend on the American people. But it was too late. Four weeks later he was dead. Despite all his money and power he was completely alone when he died, his ultimate terror realized. (from a commencement address quoted in Holman Old Testament Commentary: Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs page 20.)
At one point the most powerful man in the world. A few years later he died…alone. Just one of many of the once great who are now footnotes in history. Is it any wonder the “preacher” cried, ?“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity?” We live in a skeptical age, among jaded people. Life has been robbed of any meaning. The endless pursuit of materialism has proven fruitless. The power of pleasure to satisfy has proved to be an illusion. We are left to wonder, “Is life worth living?” By the way we are not the first to wonder about that. 10 centuries before Christ a perceptive preacher asked, “What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” In other words, “What profit is there in living?” Our text this morning is found in chapter one of the book of Ecclesiastes.
Text: Ecclesiastes 1:1-11
Admit it – this is an odd and confusing book!
It is part of the “wisdom literature” of the Old Testament.
Though the author is not named it has been assumed that Solomon authored this book.
That would make Solomon the author of three O.T books:
Song of Solomon or Song of Songs – written as a young man – about marital bliss.
Proverbs – written during midlife – extolling the virtue of wisdom rooted in the “fear of God.”
Ecclesiastes – written at the end of his life demonstrating the folly of life apart from God.
The book has been a source of conflict through the years. There have been various approaches taken in trying to make sense of it. Is this the rantings of an “eternal pessimist?” Do we have here the reasoned arguments of a religious and philosophical skeptic? It seems, at times, the author blatantly contradicts other Scripture or at least makes some very unorthodox statements. When reading the book you get the idea the writer has “issues.”
But actually the dark, foreboding and brooding conclusions we find throughout the book are not the author’s final conclusions. For his ultimate assessment we have to wait until the end of the book. The preacher is “talking” through the issues. He is speaking “out loud” as he works his way through these deep, theological and philosophical questions.
We begin in chapter 1.
The first 11 verses serve to remind us that…
Thesis: Life apart from Christ is a vain and empty pursuit.
There are three things I want to point out in our text.
- Life apart from Christ is filled with never-ending drudgery that leads nowhere. (1:1-8)
- Life apart from Christ is a meaningless, monotonous existence. (1:9-10)
- Life apart from Christ is an empty memory. (1:11)
“Pastor, thanks for the uplifting sermon today!” That’s my point. You cannot appreciate the wonder of God’s grace until you taste the despair of life without Him. Friend, life apart from Christ is a vain and empty pursuit. In contrast Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and that life in abundance.”